Lifting Travel Restrictions in the Era of COVID-19: In Search of a European Approach

On 13 May, the European Commission presented a package of guidelines and recommendations to help Member States gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen. With this initiative, the Commission aimed to play a pro-active role in ensuring an orderly and coordinated exit strategy after months of lockdown in virtually all EU Member States. However, few weeks later, it seems that every Member State applies its own rules and timetable for lifting the travel restrictions, leading to a non-transparent patchwork of rules and regulations.

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Corona Constitutional #32: Is the Reichstag burning?

Droht in den USA der Bürgerkrieg? Während die Gewalt in den Großstädten eskaliert, ließ sich der Präsident mit erhobener Bibel vor einer ausgebrannten Kirche fotografieren. Den Weg durch die demonstrierende Menschenmenge hat ihm die Polizei zuvor mit Tränengas freigeschossen. Die düsteren Assoziationen, die diese Bilder bei RALF MICHAELS hervorriefen, bespricht der Direktor des Max-Planck-Instituts für ausländisches und internationales Privatrecht im heutigen Podcast mit Max Steinbeis.

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Gemeinsam aus der Ultra-vires-Falle

Das PSPP-Urteil des BVerfG sollte Anlass sein, über die künftige Gestalt der europäischen Gerichtsverfassung nachzudenken. So verständlich manche Reaktionen auf beiden Seiten des Konflikts auch sein mögen, sie führen nicht weiter. Weder die teils überzogene Kritik in den Medien am BVerfG noch der haltlose Verdacht gegen den EuGH, er wolle den europäischen Bundesstaat per Urteil herbeizwingen, bieten eine zukunftsweisende Lösung. Ein Gemeinsamer Rat der obersten Gerichtshöfe der Europäischen Union könnte diese Aufgabe übernehmen. Hierfür müssten zwar die Gründungsverträge geändert werden. Jedoch sollte uns die Sicherung des Rechtsfriedens in der EU diesen Versuch wert sein.

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The ‘Constitutional Military Inter­vention’: Brazil on the Verge of Democratic Breakdown

After numerous judicial defeats in the past couple of months, Bolsonaro chose to travel down the path of intimidation and defiance rather than institutional reform: Through dubious constitutional interpretation, he and his supporters are ascribing to the armed forces the role of a "constitutional moderator" in order to undermine the independence of the Supreme Court.

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In Praise of Uncertainty

The Bundesverfassungsgericht’s PSPP decision will have immense consequences. I have no reason to doubt the alarm raised by so many informed and respected commentators. But here’s one small thing that has been lost in the debate so far. The Court’s decision to go its own way on a question of European law might be seen as evidence of the influence of the common law tradition in the European legal system. That’s no bad thing, and it’s probably unavoidable in any case.

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Globale Gefahren und nationale Pflichten

Das Bundesverfassungsgericht hat in seinem BND-Urteil die extraterritoriale Geltung der Grundrechte festgeschrieben. Zwar geht es in der Entscheidung nur um die Abwehrdimension der Grundrechte – doch sie enthält dennoch auch Ansätze dazu, ob auch die Schutzdimension der Grundrechte extraterritorial gilt. Das betrifft auch grundrechtliche Schutzpflichten gegenüber Menschen in transnationalen Wertschöpfungsketten deutscher Unternehmen. Insofern könnte das Urteil der aktuellen Debatte um ein sogenanntes „Lieferkettengesetz“ einen neuen Impuls geben.

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Corona Constitutional #31: Cop-Kultur

In den USA gehen Zigtausende gegen institutionellen Rassismus auf die Straße. Vielerorts werden sie Opfer eben jener brutalen Polizeigewalt, gegen die sie protestieren. Lässt sich das vergleichen mit Polizeiübergriffen in Deutschland? Darüber spricht Max Steinbeis in der heutigen Podcast-Folge mit RAFAEL BEHR, der zur sogenannten “Cop Culture” an der Akademie der Polizei Hamburg forscht.

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Repression of Freedom of Expression in Poland: Renewing support for Wojciech Sadurski

In pre-COVID19 times we drew attention (here and here) to the fact that our colleague, Professor Wojciech Sadurski, faces multiple civil and criminal cases in Poland resulting from his tweets which were critical of the ruling party. The cases were brought against him by the current government and its associates. Unfortunately, COVID19 has evidently not changed their priorities

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The Faceless Court

The authority of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the veritable Supreme Court of the European Union, has come under attack. In May 2020, the German Constitutional Court challenged the authority of the ECJ by holding that the Luxembourg court had acted beyond its mandate by allowing the quantitative easing measures issued by the European Central Bank. While many remain fixated on how the German decision has triggered the EU constitutional crisis, the public may have overlooked a more fundamental problem that has long beset the legitimacy of the ECJ—its own institutional failures.

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The EU Judiciary After Weiss

The damage to the integrity of the EU’s legal order and its rule of law is done, and the toothpaste cannot be pushed back into the tube. So the pressing questions now are two: How to address and mitigate the damage, and how to prevent its repetition. We propose that in the Conference on the Future of Europe serious consideration be given to the establishment of a new appeal jurisdiction within the Court of Justice, strictly and narrowly confined to Weiss type cases, where at issue is the delineation of the jurisdictional line between the Member States and their EU.

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Five Reasons to Question the Legality of a National Security Law for Hong Kong

On 28 May 2020, the National People’s Congress (NPC) resolved to authorize its Standing Committee (NPCSC) to enact a piece of national security law for Hong Kong. Would this decision be in contravention of the Basic Law? Some people may say that this is a stupid question. Maybe it is. But if the Central Government still claims to be abide by the rule of law, and if the NPC is not above the law, then whether its decision would contravene the Basic Law is a serious question about the rule of law.

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From Emergency to Disaster

This week, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government put before the Hungarian Parliament two draft laws that, if passed, would end the state of emergency and create a new legal framework for handing the pandemic from here on out.  In doing so, the government was responding to those who criticized the unlimited power that the government had been given in the law creating a pandemic emergency, the Enabling Act of 30 March 2020.  That law allowed the government to override any law by decree, a power that was unlimited in both scope and time and that violated Fidesz’ own “illiberal” constitution the Fundamental Law.  

The new laws are no better, and may even be worse.   One of the draft laws is less than one page long accompanied by two pages of justification.   It purports to repeal the initial Enabling Act (about which, more below).    The other one is called the law on “transitional provisions” and at first it seems only to provide lots of technical answers to questions that arise about how to reset deadlines for various legal processes that were delayed when the economy stopped. The new laws are no better, and may even be worse.

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Rights reaching beyond Borders

The German Federal Constitutional Court’s ruling on the BND establishes that the German fundamental rights guarantee protections against the interference of a German state authority like the BND also for non-German nationals in non-German territory. The court, however, leaves the question unaddressed of whether the extra-territorial applicability of the German fundamental rights extends to other scenarios as well, and especially to the other dimensions of the German fundamental rights.

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Constitutional Innovation, Democratic Stagnation?

The recovery plan of the Commission entitled “Next Generation EU” proposes a compromise that goes beyond the ominous lowest common denominator. With a package of EUR 750bn in total, comprising EUR 250bn in loans and the rest in grants, the Commission paves the way for both forward-looking public finance and constitutional innovation. The proposals are masterpieces of high-tech legal engineering. Again, European constitutional law evolves through crisis. Yet, again, it stands to reason how far the proposed instruments will shift the European Union towards enhancing solidarity and democracy.

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Trump vs. Twitter

Donald Trump is among the world’s most famous and prolific Twitter brawlers, picking fights — while the sitting President of the United States — with, among others, Greta Thunberg, supermodel Chrissy Teigen, and his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Now he finds himself in a fight with Twitter itself, and he is bringing the power of his high office to bear. After Twitter began flagging tweets from the President under a new fact-checking policy, Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) that threatens actions against platforms engaged in “Online Censorship.” The legal effects of the President’s action are likely to be limited. The broader political effects are harder to gauge.

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The Schrödinger’s Advocate General

We know Brexit means Brexit but should it also mean violating EU Primary Law? Eleanor Sharpston QC, one of the Advocates General of the European Court of Justice, launched an unprecedented legal action "against the EU and her own judicial colleagues after attempts were made to sack her": The national governments of 27 EU Member States decided to terminate her appointment early. Why? Because Brexit ought to mean Brexit or so it seems.

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